President Reagan's chief domestic policy adviser said yesterday that if a New Jersey school board "is foolish enough" to fire high school principal Joe Clark, the embattled educator could have a job at the White House.
Gary Bauer, head of Reagan's Domestic Policy Council, said he called Clark Friday and told him "to hang in there." But Bauer said he also told Clark he would have a job as Bauer's adviser if he is dismissed.
"Joe Clark embodies what President Reagan and Education Secretary William Bennett have been saying about education," Bauer said, referring to Clark's tough discipline and emphasis on classroom achievement at East Side High School in Paterson, N.J.
Clark, reached at his home in New Jersey, said he appreciated the call from Bauer and told Reagan's adviser that he would be in touch later.
Clark, 48, is one of the first black school administrators in Paterson. Last week, the district's school board inititated disciplinary action against him for expelling 60 students without due process. The state could dismiss the charges or reprimand, fine or suspend Clark.
Clark said many of the suspended youngsters were 19 or 20 years old and that most had only half the credits needed for graduation. He called them "leeches" and troublemakers.
The principal also came under fire last week, when a judge refused to dismiss contempt charges for his chaining exits at East Side in violation of city fire codes. Clark said he took the action to keep out drug dealers and thugs.
Clark, affectionately called "Crazy Joe" by students, took over East Side in 1982 and turned what had been a crime-plagued blackboard jungle into a respected inner-city institution.
Bauer said he told Clark, "If the school board is foolish enough to drop someone like you, I'd be happy to have you on my staff advising me on children's education and values."
Bauer said Clark told him he was grateful for the White House offer but that he "was trying to hang in there because it was important to the kids."
"I hope Joe Clark is able to stay at East Side because inner-city schools need more people like him," Bauer said.